We celebrated my mother’s birthday on Feb. 8th, but never really knew how old she was. She said that she was born in 1900 because it not only made her two years younger than my father, but was easy for her to calculate her age. In 1968, when my mother died, we did some of our own calculations and came up with something between 72 and 74, but of course didn’t know for sure.
Coming of age in New York’s Harlem, she expressed her independence by dropping out of school before she even entered high school and then taking a factory job, something not unusual at the time. In her early twenties, she opened her own retail shop with one of her multitude of sisters.
Education was never one of her goals but she was beautiful and was known for the way she dressed, spending more on her clothes then than I do now. Of course, I don’t have the interest in them that she had.
Marrying my father and settling down with children must have been difficult for her but she thought that was what she was supposed to do, especially since she had passed the 30-year mark and needed to make a move if she was going to do what was expected of her by her family and culture.
Her mood swings, her constant complaints about her life, her put- downs of my father, my brother and less, of me, were accepted. She was discontented about almost everything. Never knowing what was going to set her off, I retreated and tread lightly. Not ever being able to drive (she said she was too nervous), she was imprisoned in her own life.
Now, that I’m approaching that time of her last years, I’m a great deal more understanding of this woman, my mother, who never lived the life she thought she should have. Instead, although vastly different in temperament, I’ve done the living she never did……
Susanna Starr, author, entrepreneur, photographer and artist resides most of the time in a small community near Taos, New Mexico and part time between Oaxaca and Laguna Bacalar, Mexico (where she has fantastic and abundant tropical gardens). Her new blog is: http://50-and-beyond.blogspot.com/
Editor's Note: For Mother's Day, co-founder Judith Fein wrote about her mama. We decided to check in with our other writers to see what they have to say about the women who birthed them. You may be very surprised. Feel free to leave comments for any of the writers and Happy Mother's Day if you are one, have one, or plan to be one!